Arsenal's Causes For Optimism: Cash Rich, New Ideas And Podolski

A season that started horrifically looks to be ending on the up. Financially stable, a new assistant to reinvigorate the training ground and an international striker already in the bag. Now just for that pesky silverware...
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A season that started horrifically looks to be ending on the up. Financially stable, a new assistant to reinvigorate the training ground and an international striker already in the bag. Now just for that pesky silverware...

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We're approaching the time of the year when Arsenal supporters begin to wonder whether Arsene Wenger is going to invest in the players needed to turn his team from nearly men to winners - it's become an annual obsession, and every year since the club's last Premier League title in 2004, I've heard it said that Arsenal are 'three or four' players short.

You know how it goes...the need for a 'commanding centre-back', a 'tough-tackling central midfielder' and not forgetting 'genuine leaders' - it's a well-worn script that even football phone-in hosts must be tired of.

That said, for supporters starved of any silverware since 2005, I believe this summer offers a lot more reasons to be optimistic than many that have preceded it.

Critics who've often described Arsene Wenger as 'stubborn' must surely be encouraged by signs that he now seem content to merge a policy of finding 'rough diamonds' with bigger spending on a sprinkling of proven quality.

The 26-year-old forward averages around a goal every two games at international level

Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker might not have been quite what many supporters had in mind last summer, but the arrival of Lukas Podolski this summer is hard to argue with.

Costing a reported £10.9m from Koln, the 26-year-old forward averages around a goal every two games at international level and has scored thirty in the last two Bundesliga seasons combined.

It's a signing to excite even the most pessimistic of Arsenal fans and more could follow from a club in very different circumstances to the one that spent just £4.5m on the relatively unknown trio of Emmanuel Eboue, Mathieu Flamini and Manuel Almunia after winning the league in 2004, releasing Ray Parlour, Martin Keown, Edu, Sylvain Wiltord and Kanu, the same summer.

Work had just started on the £390m construction of Emirates Stadium back then and perhaps this was a club not in a financial position to capitalise on a position of strength, which Arsenal, against the odds, are likely to end the current campaign in.

It would mean finishing the season on something of a high, such a contrast from the previous campaign

Admittedly it's not the power base that a league title brings but Arsenal are favourites to finish in the final automatic qualification spot for next season's UEFA Champions League, despite being written off earlier in the season - it would mean finishing the season on something of a high, such a contrast from the previous campaign which saw a promising title challenge fizzle out to and a surprise defeat in the Carling Cup Final against Birmingham City.

Going into the new season without a hangover of negativity would be a refreshing change for Wenger, who must be enjoying the break that better results have brought from previously intense speculation about his own future at Arsenal.

That, combined with the likelihood of fresh ideas from a new Assistant, could well revitalise even further the most successful manager in Arsenal's history, who had looked worn and weary at the lowest point of his sixteen years in charge, the 8-2 loss at Old Trafford last August.

Of course all this positivity would inevitably be diluted if Arsenal were to wave goodbye to Robin van Persie this summer - an outstanding centre-forward who, at the time of writing, has scored 28 goals in 36 league games this season - to put that in perspective, Arsenal's next highest scorer, Theo Walcott, has managed 8 goals.

Calling Arsenal a one man team is unfair and inaccurate, but there is no doubt that if van Persie were to end his eight-year association with the club, the Dutchman's absence would leave a gaping hole that not even Podolski could fill.

Whether the Emirates trophy cabinet will get it's first silverware next season is anybody's guess

It's not just on the pitch where the ramifications would be felt either - the sale of van Persie, Arsenal's crown jewel, would be hugely symbolic too - true or not, it would be interpreted by many as evidence that Arsenal still can't compete with Europe's very best either financially or out on the pitch, the same accusations which were made after last summer's sales of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.

That's understandably hard to accept for Arsenal fans who've paid top-rate ticket prices for six-years at a stadium which they've been told is a major part of the master plan for long-term success.

Even that is a positive though, when you consider how a rival club like Liverpool are being hamstrung by the lack of a new home to grow in - in contrast, Arsenal are already generating the extra revenues this comes with, while also being a long way down the daunting mortgage path that Liverpool are yet to begin.

Whether the Emirates trophy cabinet will get it's first silverware next season is anybody's guess, but if Arsenal can qualify for the UEFA Champions League and keep Robin van Persie, they could well be in a better position to succeed than at any other point since the stadium's construction.

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